Sakau - Kinabatangan River

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August 11th 2010
Published: August 11th 2010
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16th day - Sakua, Kinabatangan River

On the bus journey in the morning we drove right by Mt Kinabalu which stands over 4000metres high, it's quite an impressive lump of rock! Shortly after passing Mt Kinabalu, the lanscape changed from nice dense forest to mile after mile of palm oil plantations. Palm oil is used in shampoo products, foods, bio-fuel and lots more things I can't think of right now. It's the first time I've seen it here in Borneo, which is surprising because it's everywhere and it's the main reason for the decline in rain forest and endangered species! What people get from 1 palm oil tree is really quite minimal, that's why they have rows and rows of them stretching long distances, to get enough to actually do something with. About 70%!o(MISSING)f the plantations in borneo are owned and operated by chinese companies. They make offers to farmers and land owners, who cannot refuse the nice payouts and agree to give up thier land, which is normally the favoured habitat of protected species. The chinese know the wealth in palm oil but pay the workers peanuts. Malaysians or Indonesians won't work for that kind of money so I think it's mainly just Chinese that work the plantations.
Out of a 7hr bus journey I'd say 5 of it was through palm oil plantations...we stopped seeing them just before our destination.
We arrived early afternoon at the village of Sakua and eventually found ourselves a bed & breakfast right by the river. The setting of our accomodation is beautiful, with the river on one side and large open land with a forest surrounding it on the other. I couldn't of asked for a better place, its cheap to stay and the river tours are inexpensive too.
When the guy running the place said they normally run 2 2hr boat rides a day I was a little dissapointed, but after further prodding (you have to prod people for info here, they have a habit of leaving things out, sometimes vital info too) he revealed he also does a whole day trip. So we booked ourselves in for the whole of the next day and we then headed out for a few hrs to see what we could find. We were accompanied by 2 french girls who arrived at the b&b just after us. I wasn't expecting to see life jackets on the small boat, i made good use them of course considering there were crocs about - not that a life jacket is gonna shield you from crocodile teeth but with it's boyancy etc it might make it more difficult to get dragged under water, that was my thinking anyway! 5mins into our ride we saw a family of proboscis monkeys. In fact, in a 2hr boat ride down the Kinabatangan river we saw more wildlife than spending 2 whole days in Mulu National Park.

We saw -
Lot's of proboscis monkeys
Even more short-tailed macaque's
A few hornbills
Some herons
A really colourful kingfisher
An eagle of some kind
A monitor lizard
A bronzeback snake (very poisonious apparently)

Later in the evening me, B&F had dinner with the 2 french girls. I now know how they felt when I was talking to the swedish girl for hours at Mulu NP. They were all talking away in french so I had nothing else to do other than delete shite photos off my camera. At least they had each other to talk to when I did it to them though. One of the french girls said to me "why is it the english don't bother to learn french but we learn english?" and went on to complain how lazy we are at that kind of thing. I felt like saying "Shut up twat". Of course I didn't, instead I bit my tongue and made an effort to speak to her and everything I said was returned by a one word answer. Something tells me her english skills weren't actually that different to my french. The other girl was fine however. It had been agreed that we would all do the day trip we'd booked for the next morning....together, yay.

17th day - Sakua, Kinabatangan River

We started our river trip at 6:00am and it wasn't long before we saw a few fish eagles, herons and bats asleep under a rocky outcrop. The day before, when our guide mentioned he normally did 2hr trips, I understood why. The heat was really picking up and the boat was going slowley to spot wildlife so we had no breeze to cool us down. Every now and then he'd manuvoure the boat under a tree in the shade to give us a break, which was nice.
Our guide, Sol I think his name was, was excellent - a fountain of knowledge, really kind, always stopping long enough for us to take pictures etc. His father built the B&B, Sol and his 10 siblings have carried it on since he died. I'll be recommending this place on a travel forum on the internet because Sol and his family deserve more business. Every now and then you come across the perfect place, it's always by chance too - we were going to be staying somewhere else but they were full and then we stumbled upon Sol's place. I've found a few places on my travels that are great to stay in but don't seem to draw much of a crowd, maybe it's down to lack of publicity. It's a shame though because they are always the nicest people and they really do deserve more business than the crappy one's (that seem to get a lot of visitors). All of the crap one's I've stayed in have no character, are over expensive, the owners seem to have had their years fill of foriegners already so aren't particularly warming and they don't bother to clean the places much.

Anyway, back to wildlife spotting....At lunchtime we stopped off at a little pier sticking out of the riverbank for lunch. Afterwards, Sol took us into the forest to meet about 20 of his cousins. His family own 5 acres of this large area of land and come for 2 or 3 months each year to harvest fruit from trees they'd planted the year becore. The fruit is nothing I've heard of before, it's too rich and sweet for me but for them it lasts all year round and makes up part of thier daily meals. Just by one of the tree's was a huge fruit bat just hanging upside down. They said it had been fighting with another bat the day before and fell out of the tree breaking it's wing, they weren't optimistic about it's survival. He said there's normally orangutan in the area stealing the fruit, so a few of us went for a walk to try and find some but we didn't have any luck. I think if I'd spent longer than 2 days there I may of seen some, maybe even forest elephants too, we saw enough footprints about.
It was early afternoon now and was starting to cool down. We went up and down the river until dusk looking at proboscis monkeys (I'll never get tired them, they look so strange). It had been a very long but enjoyable day and we were so knackered that we were in bed by 8.

18th day - Getting back to Kuala Lumpur

We were up at 6 to get our bus back to Sandakan on the north east coast of Borneo, where I'd fly to Kuala Lumpur from. I've contracted a bastard cold, better now than at the start of my trip I guess. I think it was either sleeping in the damp tent or I've just not been looking after myself properly i.e. no sleep and not enough food.
It was time to say goodbye to Florent and Bogdan and go our seperate ways. They really are good guys, really kind and a good laugh to be with. If I hadn't have met them in Java, my trip would not have been such an epic adventure. I'm sure we'll be meeting up again at some point in the future.

So, might as well end my blog now, nothing interesting talking about flights home etc. I'm really glad I booked a couple of days off before I go back to work, I need the sleep so bad.
I've only been travelling for 20 days but it feels like I've been away for a lot longer. It's been a great experience and I'd recommend Indonesia/Malaysia to anyone. I know it hasn't exactly run smoothly at times and I've bitched about certain things but it's mainly down to me being male and not planning things properly or preparing etc.

Anyways, Selamat Jalan!

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